New Series of GreenLight Blogs: Bringing Transportation Science to Policy

By Dan Sperling and Austin Brown

Today the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy are launching a UC Davis blog on transportation, highlighting new research findings and insights important to transportation policy and decision-making. We see a moral and ethical obligation to better disseminate our mountains of research to inform policy, investments, and decisions in government and industry. We are especially focused on responding to disruptions caused by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the sharing, electric, and automation revolutions. We retain our commitment to sustainable transportation (including my beloved zero emission bike).

These blogs will be short and timely. It’s an experiment. We’ll try for every two weeks, starting next week! Sign up here.

Coming into 2020, the transportation world was already in turmoil. Transit ridership was declining in almost every city in the US, calls for decarbonizing transportation were intensifying, and the unfolding three revolutions of electric, shared, and automated vehicles were already disrupting cities.

Now, on top of those snowballing disruptions, comes the unprecedented turmoil of COVID-19. Transit decline is now freefall disaster. Airlines are decimated. Dockless scooters and bikes have nearly disappeared. Ride-hailing companies are barely surviving (saved in the case of Uber by a boom in food delivery). There is collateral damage all around, highlighted by the Hertz bankruptcy in May. Meanwhile, telecommunications is replacing many commute, medical, and shopping trips. To what extent will these changes in travel behavior persist? And how will transportation (and other) businesses respond?

We in the research world have a special responsibility to help add clarity. This blog series will tap into the vast pool of research being generated here at UC Davis. Next week we start with a stream of blogs that aim to inform current policy and decision-making in government and industry. Upcoming blogs will explore the transformation of local goods delivery, the rise of electric trucks, the comeback of sharing in a COVID world, and much more. Sign up here.

The spark for this series was Kate Gordon, the “climate czar” for Governor Newsom of California, and a longtime leader and expert on economic development, jobs, climate housing, and transportation. In her keynote talk at the (virtual) biannual UC Davis Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways symposium (May 21), she called for researchers in this time of need to step up and accelerate the dissemination of research and insights. We were struck by her call to action and the plethora of policy-relevant research being presented by researchers.

To assist us, we invite policymakers and decisionmakers to send us their wish list of what they need to know about transportation to make better decisions. We’ll make every effort to respond with thoughtful science-based blogs taken from our research at UC Davis and elsewhere. Stay tuned. Sign up here.